Duque dares accusers to file cases vs officials in alleged ‘DOH mafia’

Mara Cepeda
Duque dares accusers to file cases vs officials in alleged ‘DOH mafia’
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III says he will order a review of the contracts entered into by the previous administration

MANILA, Philippines – Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Francisco Duque III urged those accusing a mafia-like group of officials is operating within the agency to file the appropriate cases in court.  

“I encourage those who are painting the Department of Health in [a] bad light to present evidence to substantiate their claims. I cannot allow accusers to tarnish the good reputation of the Department of Health, which it has gloriously built over the years, by spewing unsubstantiated allegations,” said Duque in a statement on Monday, January 15. 

“I have always advocated for transparency and good governance and I will not allow corruption under my watch. If they have evidence to support the allegations, I encourage them to go forward and file the necessary cases,” he added.

Ex-DOH consultant Francis Cruz accused the following former and current officials as part of the “DOH” mafia, who had supposedly benefitted in the controversy over the now-suspended Dengvaxia dengue vaccination program:

  • Former secretary Janette Garin
  • Retired undersecretary Nemesio Gako
  • Resigned undersecretary Kenneth Hartigan-Go
  • Resigned undersecretary Vicente Belizario Jr
  • Former head executive assistant Yolanda Oliveros
  • Former DOH office of the secretary consultant Linda Milan
  • Undersecretary Carol Taino
  • Undersecretary Gerardo Bayugo
  • Undersecretary Lilibeth David
  • Undersecretary Mario Villaverde
  • Assistant Secretary Nestor Santiago
  • Assistant Secretary and DOH spokesperson Lyndon Lee Suy
  • Financial management service director Larry Cruz
  • Family health office officer-in-charge Joyce Ducusin
  • Health promotion and communication service officer-in-charge Mar Wynn Bello
  • National Capital Region regional director Ariel Valencia
  • Central Luzon regional director Leonila Gorgolon
  • Calabarzon regional director Rio Magpantay
  • Philippine Children’s Medical Center director Julius Lecciones

Cruz was a consultant under the terms of ex-DOH chiefs Enrique Ona and Paulyn Ubial.

Duque said he will order a review of the contracts entered into by the previous administration, but the allegations against the said officials “are still unsubstantiated at this point.”

“Now that we are back at the DOH, we will strengthen our good governance campaign and ensure that our officials and staff adhere to the highest standards of professionalism and integrity.   We will definitely not tolerate corruption,” said Duque.

Garin denied she was part of the so-called “DOH mafia.”

“His claim is a big lie! I categorically deny any wrongdoing as former DOH secretary and public servant,” she said in a text message.

“These attacks are not only geared towards specific persons. It’s an attack on the institution,” added Garin.

The controversial dengue vaccination program was launched in the National Capital Region, Central Luzon, and Calabarzon by Garin under the previous administration. (READ: TIMELINE: Dengue immunization program for public school students)

Public health experts were against the “rushed” implementation of the program, arguing studies on the safety, efficiacy, and cost-effectiveness Sanofi Pasteur’s Dengvaxia dengue vaccine have not been completed at the time.

Less than two years later, Sanofi said its vaccine could lead a person to develop a more severe case of dengue if he or she had not been infected by the virus prior immunization.

Duque suspended the program immediately, but 873,000 Filipino gradeschoolers already received the risky vaccine.

The government allocated P3.5 billion for the immunization program. Duque demanded Sanofi to refund P1.4 billion over the  remaining unused vaccine vials left in DOH’s warehouses, which the company complied with on Monday.

The Food and Drug Administration slapped Sanofi with a P100,000 fine and suspended Dengvaxia’s sale in the country after the company failed to comply with post-marketing authorization requirements. – Rappler.com 

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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or tweet @maracepeda.